Crowdfunding Highlights

Cam Banks’ Magic Vacuum Design Studio has launched a Kickstarter campaign for Cortex Prime, the newest version of the Cortex Plus system. Cam was the lead designer and developer of the Cortex Plus system, which was used in the Smallville, Leverage, Firefly, and Marvel Heroic Roleplaying games. Two different books are offered, a 152+ page roleplaying game, and a basic system reference guidebook. A $10 pledge gets you pdf versions of both books in January while physical copies begin at $25, arriving in April of 2018, with a hardcover Cortex Prime book only available during this campaign starting at $35.

Posthuman Studios has announced a second edition of Eclipse Phase, launching a funding campaign last week. The science fiction roleplaying game is set in a quite advanced future: your mind can inhabit different bodies, death is something that can be easily avoided, and need is alleviated. However, transhumanity has fled Earth following a war against artificial intelligences, dispersing thoughout the solar system (and beyond) for survival. The new edition features faster character creation and resleeving (switching from body to body), an updated ruleset for quicker and simpler play at the table, and a redesigned layout to minimize flipping through the book to find relevant rules. Already funded, a $60 pledge gets you a copy of the physical book around October; a pdf-only reward is available down at a $20 pledge.

The story of Brass is a long and troubled tale, but finally Brass is being reprinted in an updated version from Roxley Games. Brass, now titled Brass: Lancashire, is part of a funding campaign that also is producing a sequel game, Brass: Birmingham. Both games have updated artwork (the best art I’ve seen in any edition of Brass, frankly). Lancashire features updated 2- and 3-player rules to “provide an experience more consistent with [the 4-player gameplay]”. Birmingham has a dynamic board setup with new canal and rail scoring (plus an evocative nightscape map). Crazily over-funded and with several upgrade stretch goals already unlocked, you can get either one of the games for about $60 or both as a reward for backing at the $100 level. (Funding levels are in CAD.) Final versions of the games are expected in January of 2018.

Back when I was heading up a rather large monthly game day event, it seemed that every third attendee was a budding game designer. Gameplaywright and Atlas Games are creating a great product for these designers: The White Box. This project comes with components for prototyping and development, a book of essays about how to make games, and a gift certificate for The Game Crafter, a small press board game printer that is commonly used for prototyping. A $30 pledge gets you a copy of The White Box in October. Higher level pledges get you a consultation on your game design.

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Cheapass Games has just announced the Button Men will be rising from the ashes in a new Kickstarter campaign that upgrades the classic James Ernest game from pin-back buttons to deluxe cards. Set in Fight City, a fictional 1950’s gangster town located somewhere on the Gulf Coast, the new Button Men game features four warring factions, each with their own style of play. Even though Button Men is now a card game the name still works since a “button man” is a low-level gangster.

While the game is getting a facelift, the rules are pretty much the same. This means that the new card-driven game will still be compatible with your old button collection.

The new campaign should be up sometime today and will have reward levels from $15 all the way up to $485.

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An early adopter of crowdfunding, Tasty Minstrel Games is now looking to raise general operating and marketing funds through equity crowdfunding portal MicroVentures. The company says it has three games in development, 15 in production, and has sold over 400,000 units since 2010. It appears that any return on a crowdfunding investment could only come about through the sale of shares back to the company or if the company as a whole was sold at some point in the future. But equity crowdfunding is significantly more complex that your typical game project. Read those documents carefully.

Calliope Games has been doing a great job with its focus on easier-going strategy games. Next in that line is to be Dicey Peaks, currently funded and aiming for stretch-goals in its final hours on Kickstarter. I got a brief preview of Dicey Peaks at Toy Fair. It’s a push-your-luck dice game of mountain-climbing. To win, players must make their way to the summit while managing their oxygen and avoiding yeti attacks.

With Commands & Colors: Tricorne from Compass Games, designer Richard Borg takes his C&C card-driven system to the American Revolution. The game will include more than 300 wood blocks, printed dice, a mounted map-board, and separate decks of combat cards to represent the differentiated strategies of the British and Colonials.

On the verge of funding is another block war game, Combat Infantry. Columbia Games’s version of squad-level combat in World War II, this one emphasizes fog-of-war with blocks that are single-sided and rotate to record current strength. The box will include six historical scenarios from the invasion of Normandy, as well as four additional generic scenarios.

Tesla vs. Edison: Duel is an abbreviated, two-player card game that covers the same history of early electric utilities as Artana’s full Tesla vs. Edison board game. Most importantly, the company finally included Samuel Insull, my favorite personality of the period.

Kenzer and Company is on Kickstarter for the first time with Aces & Eights: Reloaded, a revised edition of its wild-west roleplaying game. Kenzer promises a second edition “chock-full of new rules, tweaks, art and other enhancements,” while maintaining the game’s unique shot-clock, a targeting overlay for fun old-west style shoot-outs.

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Phil Reed, CEO of Steve Jackson Games, published the company’s annual Report to the Stakeholders today. In it, the company revealed that they had a second year of decline from 2014’s high of $8.5 million to $6 million. The main reasons cited for the income slowdown were delays on planned releases of Car Wars Sixth Edition and the Munchkin Collectible Card Game. With the delay on Car Wars, Mr. Reed writes it was due to “an insistence on making the game exactly the way we want it. We would rather not ship the game than ship a game that doesn’t meet our standards.” They are also seeking to get the Munchkin CCG ready to print by the end of the year.

The company looks to have a difficult year ahead for it, with the Ogre Kickstarter campaign from 2012 still not completed. “We are still sinking time into the project,” he writes, even though “we’re seeing real progress; several outstanding pieces of the project are finally coming to a close. Whew.”

Issues with the GURPS line have been problematic for the company as well. Two hardcover books for the GURPS line, Discworld and Mars Attacks, were released but performed poorly at retail. “Today’s cluttered market, combined with our insistence on getting it right, made both books expensive experiments that tell us one thing: Do not produce more GURPS hardcovers until we have guaranteed that the sales are there.” Also tying up resources at the company is the Dungeon Fantasy GURPS introductory box set. Reed writes, “what would have been a profitable project is rapidly turning into a loss.”

But it isn’t all doom and gloom: Munchkin continues to do well with reprints, Guest Artist Editions, and expanding into Walgreens. In the top twenty products sold by dollar volume, all but three were Munchkin related. The company released five new games which appear to have done well at retail, and Zombie Dice had to go back to reprint due to “unexpected demand during the fourth quarter” of 2016. “A game from 2010 that keeps outselling our forecast is good and bad, but we’ll take this situation over the opposite problem any day.”

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Currently on Kickstarter: two review(ish) boardgame shows looking to do awesome stuff in their sixth year. Rahdo Runs Through is looking for funding for a sixth year of production, with most of his $30,000 goal reached. Rahdo’s funding comes through yearly campaigns like this: no YouTube ads are on his channel of gameplay videos. The Secret Cabal, a gaming podcast, looks to expand their offerings to video, additional programming, and more by making co-host Jamie Keagy a full-time media producer for the group. They’ve already hit this goal and offer several promo packs for a variety of games at a $45 pledge level.

I’ve always liked the games with transparent cards (see Gloom and Ren Faire from Atlas Games and Gamewright’s Imagine). XYbird is a monster-makin’ game that uses these cool components. Following your diabolical secret agenda (well, secret “breakthrough” cards), you build monsters from the lab with a combination of the 116 transparent cards to become the most infamous mad… no, genius scientist extraordinaire! The world will be yours! Or at least this cool game will be yours in November, for a $29 pledge.

Now I like the design of the ships in Star Eagles, a miniature spaceship combat game, and at $60 for a physical starter set good for two players, I don’t think the pricing of the game is off. But the lore or setting of the game is an original IP and isn’t spelled out on the campaign page apart from “here are some humans” and “here are the aliens” and “they fight”. The sculpts look great and the game system is said to adapt most small-ship fighting battles, so if you have some Cylon Raiders and Colonial Vipers handy… The pdf of the rules will be available in July along with files for your 3d printer, physical copies are to be available in September.

I have to recommend Lizard People: Lords of the Media for an interesting party game. I’m having a difficult time deciding if I should put it next to the “It’s just like Cards Against Humanity, except _____” graphic, because while it plays like Apples to Apples combined with Texas Hold ‘Em, somehow it looks… good? Like there’s an actual game here and not just like a fresh coat of paint on an already-acclaimed game design?

Here’s the deal: we’re all lizard people and we’re manipulating the media by pitching headlines for articles in the hopes of gaining favor with the editor so he’ll give us a human meat-suit disguise so we can walk among the humans and be One of Them. The editor plays three word cards from their hand (Horse, CEO, Uncovers) then the other players use at least two of those words in combination with their cards to create an article headline (Human CEO Discovers Teen Were- Horse). Editor picks the best, awarding a human body part covering to the winner. A $16 pledge will get you a copy of the game in December.

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The people who created TSR’s Alternity roleplaying game are looking to bring the game — well, a new game inspired by their earlier work — kicking and screaming into the 21st Century. “The ‘tech’ of RPG system design has moved on a bit from 1997,” writes Sasquatch Game Studio’s Rich Baker, “and we’re looking to create a system that captures the spirit and the key table experiences of the original game with an updated approach.” Advertised as its own game, not a second edition, reboot, or remake, the creators have a free beta playtest available on DriveThruRPG. Various reward tiers are available, but you’ll really want to start at the $45 level which gets pdf versions of the core book and all sourcebooks and adventures unlocked during the campaign. Estimated delivery is in December.

If you run a game store or game cafe, or do video reviews of boardgames, Massif Displays offers collapsible stands for displaying those games. Sets (one large display, two medium, or four small) start at $8, but pricing drops with multiple sets — twelve display sets are down to $4 per individual set. Delivery is scheduled for August.

Oh, and something called Gloomhaven went live yesterday. It was at $1.15 million when I started writing this sentence, but wound up at $1.16 million when I ended it.

Huh. Still no full-on Cards Against Humanity knockoff this week. But hey, look at this, it’s another dirty words Charades.

But wait, Dirty Lines A Game For Dirty Minds isn’t just a straight charades photocopy! You gain points extra points if you can get the others to guess some key words before they get your main word. So you’re really trying to charade up to five words in a short time. Oh, and hey, the sample card on the kickstarter campaign isn’t really a naughty word, it’s just racist! Five days left!

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For those who missed out on Gloomhaven the first time around, it’s now back on Kickstarter and already funded.

$99 will get you a copy of the game once the campaign ends.

This second edition features new health and experience trackers and a revised rule book and scenario book.

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Announced last year, Restoration Games was created to breathe new life into classic games, updating them to our modern world. One of the first games mentioned was Stop Thief!, a 1979 board game with an electronic element: a handheld device that made sounds of a thief walking, smashing through windows, and opening doors. As detectives, you pieced together where the villain might be and move in for the capture. The new version moves the handheld tracker to an app for phone or tablet and swaps the roll and move mechanic to a point-to-point movement system based on a small handful of cards with abilities. Currently funded, Restoration Games expects the game to be ready in August, this year.

One of my favorite creatures from my Dungeons & Dragons days was the mimic, that master of disguise. And now Forge Prints is kickstarting a whole bunch of mimic miniatures: trap doors, books, wooden barrels, sleeping bags, graves, and even a wizard’s cap. Most of these come with two or three versions: actual props and toothy tongued mimic monsters. The campaign has some confusing reward structures, but you’re really going to want to get in at the $35 level to get the stretch goal minis. Extremely overfunded at this point, just over a week into the campaign, they expect to deliver in July.

I love me some post-apocalyptic gunshooting vehicular-combat madness, and Badass Riders looks like a fun card-based boardgame to scratch that itch. Build a track, choose a driver and vehicle, and during the game start playing cards to rush, race, and attack other vehicles in this Mad Max-like sprint to the finish line. Currently funded, 20$ (plus shipping) nabs you a copy. Expected delivery is December, 2017.

The Adventurer’s Collection Tabletop Soundtrack is a “nearly fifty track collection” of background music tracks for roleplaying game sessions. The designer is planning on using funds for the campaign to create a website that streams music using a simple interface. AU$15 (about $11 USD) gets you early access to the audio tracks in April, slightly less gets you access to them on the official launch date in August.

I was looking forward to this Crowdfunding Highlights article so I could write about what new Cards Against Humanity knockoff was being offered, but… there weren’t any. Maybe it’s a weak week for CAH off-brands.

However, I did come across Bad Words, which is an exteremly NSFW version of Taboo. You get a card that has a phrase or word that other players have to guess, but also on the card are five forbidden words that you cannot use. Can you get your teammates to guess “Eiffel Tower” without you using the words “Paris”, “threesome”, and “high five”? This is the company’s third attempt at launching the game on Kickstarter, originally shooting for a $30,000 goal, then a $12,000 goal, and now with a modest $1,000 goal, they’ve succeeded in funding! For every $100 raised, there’s four more words added to the game — right now, a $15 pledge will get you the base 208-word deck plus the (currently) 92-word expansion.

Oh, and check out the video for drunk people eating snacks and trying to talk about the game.

Edit: Updated the article to reflect the number of words in the Bad Words game per the creator’s note below.

Second Look—FAITH RPG

Second Look - Boardgame reviews in depth. Check out that cat.About two weeks after Burning Games sent a review copy of FAITH: A Garden in Hell’s starter set, they won runner-up for RPG of the Year at BoardGameGeek’s annual Golden Geek Awards. Skimming through the set, it’s easy to see why: the layout and illustrations are very well done. The 30€ Starter Set contains two full-color books, a 36-page rulebook and a 72-page campaign that should take a gaming group through about ten game sessions; two decks of cards, one a playing deck full of artwork and a gear and NPC deck; four character folios; and a few other playing aids for the GM. For a starter set, FAITH had a lot of production value in that box.

But what’s the game? With a name like “FAITH” and a subtitle “A Garden in Hell”, one might suppose that we’re looking at a religious game, something based on a real-world religion, like maybe we’ve been tricked into playing Scientologists…in spaaaaaace! Well, no.

There are belief systems at work here, but there are gods as well, but these gods were created from the beliefs of people: enough people believe a certain thing is true, such as “it is best to use one’s genius and power for the common good”, and the embodiment of that belief becomes real. The game gives five Gods to play with, each with a list of four commandments. Live by your god’s commandments and you start unlocking special near-magical abilities granted by your belief.

So yeah, not what I was expecting.

FAITH is in the far future with interstellar travel via wormholes. The setting history reads as if it’s a quite complex background that’s distilled into a one page summary (which in the starter kit, it is). To summarize that in a review would be rather tricky, so let’s try a barebones version: In the future, Earth descends into barbarism and an alien race uses us to fight a covert war against another alien race, much in the same way the United States and the Soviet Union used proxy nations to fight each other’s proxies in the 1980s. But then, another alien race shows up and holy crap, the US and CCCP and, um, I guess the Contras and Sandinistas must work together to fight off… China? I’m really stretching the metaphor.

There is a lot of detail – at least a hundred pages for just one of the two major alien races – in the core book, which is currently being Kickstarted. Lots of worldbuilding, including the current internal political structure, criminal organizations, and a rundown of the major and minor movers and shakers are included. Plus, pages and pages of beautiful full-color artwork.

The gameplay is card-based. The players, including the GM, have a deck of poker cards – a player deck with full bleed artwork and numbers in four suits is included in the starter set. Characters have skills and attribute scores. The skill’s value is added to the total on the cards played from a player’s starting hand of seven cards; the attribute is how many cards they may play from their hand. Skills and attributes aren’t linked: if you can find a valid reason to use your Mind stat with your Athletic skill, you do so. Some cards when played (matching a specific suit or a card of a rank of your skill or lower) trigger drawing additional cards into your hand.

You might notice that we’re using a standard poker deck: you’ll go through the entire deck before reshuffling. So that means you know you’re going to be playing that two of hearts (Urban Environment: 2) sometime before you’ll be getting a high-ranked card later.

The basic rule is the entire table uses one deck, which might mean that two of hearts is drawn and played by the GM or another player and you might see that ten of clubs come through again — three or four other people at the table are helping to cycle through the deck. There’s an optional rule where each player has their own deck of cards, which means you’re going to get both that two of hearts and that ten of clubs, but it’s going to take longer to cycle through your deck. I’m not sure I like this – the single deck feels like there’s more randomness inherent in the system. (Although I do like the control you have with a hand of cards. You could hold onto that two of hearts if you never want to play it and it’ll never come out during the game.)

If you’re running the game, it’s a little bit different: your NPCs have only two stats that matter when resolving conflicts, a physical and mental one. Flip over card(s) from the top of the deck and add them to the stat that covers what’s happening. It’s a bit of an asymmetric play that reminds me of Cinematic Unisystem (which is a good thing – there’s less bookkeeping for the GM, more crafting of the minutiae in the player’s characters).

There are also gear and NPC cards for the players and GM to use during the game as quick reference materials. Your character might be holding a relatively small assault rifle and there it is, with artwork, stats, abilities, and some in-world flavor text.

The campaign book.

Oh, this is so nice. I’m used to starter sets that have enough material in them for three, four scenes of action to get you a feel of the game. This has four acts, each with multiple scenes, and suggests that you’ll get somewhere between seven to twelve game sessions out of it.

I’m going to talk very briefly on the illustrations in this book: they are amazing. One of the map artists uses an illustration for the local maps, which really blows me away. That’s all I’m going to mention because the artwork here is phenomenal.

The campaign book itself features a learn-to-play mode. In the first actual encounter, the survivors of a crash on an unsurveyed planet must deal with hostile wildlife. The book breaks down this initial conflict sequence with how to use the system. As the book goes on, the reins are slowly handed over to the GM: “Create a level 3 encounter using a combination of the following…” The plot of the campaign marches towards a definite endpoint, but there are several branches a group could take, including a whole section of recon missions and the like from a central “safe” base. The ending of the campaign has different things and elements based on actions and events that the characters took or didn’t take – again, different from most starter sets that lead a group from encounter A to B to C and done.

So, should you get this thing? Well… there are a few odd things with what we’ve been able to see, so far, although they’re mainly applicable to the setting, like how the book talks about the “universe”, but it seems like there are only five different species of beings intelligent enough to achieve spaceflight in the entire universe (one of which invaded from “outside the known Universe… from far-off stars”, which leads me to think that they’re using that word incorrectly, but then the core rulebook pretty much makes it clear that no, we’re dealing with the entire universe). There’s all this world-building material about the politics and megacorps and the underworld… yet the starter set and the game seem to push characters towards the far fringes of known space to explore strange new worlds. And although the Kickstarter campaign page says there will be a section on combat in space, there really wasn’t anything in what I was able to review that featured it, leaving me to suppose the game’s main focus is on ground pounders making landfall on strange new alien worlds.

But hey, maybe that’s absolutely fine with what you want out of a far futuristic game.

Setting aside, my only major concern with the game’s printed material is the page numbering. Burning Games seems to think that the inside front cover of a book is page 1. It’s not – odd-numbered pages are on the right, even-numbered on the left. Look, I do layout for books when I’m not writing for Purple Pawn. This is a Thing with me.

That’s literally my only major concern with the game.

If the setting grabs you, go for it. If you like your characters to have some control in the outcomes of their actions instead of completely random dice rolls determining what’s up, go for it. If you just want a well-designed rulebook (except for the page numbering) that’s stuffed with some amazing artwork, go for it.

Oh, and the full game is currently being launched on Kickstarter.

A copy of FAITH: A Garden in Hell and a preview version of FAITH: The Sci-Fi RPG were provided free for review by Burning Games.

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Toy Fair 2017—ThinkFun

At Toy Fair, ThinkFun’s booth was full of puzzles and a few games. We saw the next entry in their Escape the Room line: Secret of Dr. Gravely’s Retreat (available now, $22). Containing four packed envelopes of props, puzzles, and clues, the new case has a higher age range. “Mystery at the Stargazer’s Manor was big hit for us,” explained Kacey Templin, “but we had a lot of feedback to make the next one a bit more difficult, a bit more adult.” Thus, the recommended age moved slightly forward from 10 to 13 and up.

Color Cube Sudoku (March, $20) replicates a 6×6 Sudoku puzzle with nine colored cubes. Orient, spin, and swap cubes to solve a Sudoku puzzle using colors instead of numbers.

But I thought the coolest thing there was Spin-A-Roo (in stores in March, $20), a number counting game for the preschooler to second grade set. On your player mat, you have four numbers. You race to grab numbered discs off of the central spin-a-roo piece, either one up or down from the numbers you currently are showing. One neat thing about the game is the spinning element on the central unit: just spin it once and the board is repopulated with tiles — it’s actually fun to set up the next round!

RollerCoaster Challenge (summer, $22) is designed by the person that created Gravity Maze. In this, you’re taking several roller coaster elements, and buildling out tracks. You can try one of the forty challenge cards that come with the game, or — as I suspect I’d do — just use it to build your own coaster set. Currently on Kickstarter — ThinkFun’s first foray using the crowdsourcing platform — backers can receive an exclusive ThinkFun-colored blue car.

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